The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday announced it released a new, highly accurate test that can detect whether an individual has developed antibodies that fight against the novel coronavirus.
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The National Reference Laboratory (NRL), part of Mubadala Healthcare’s network, said that the tests, known as serology test kits, would help enable the mass return of employees to offices.
The tests detect antibodies in the blood that reveal whether a person has had COVID-19 in the past, regardless of how severe their symptoms were.
Unlike earlier tests used to check for a previous infection, such as the PCR test, the results of the new serology test can be processed within hours and has an accuracy rate of 99.5 percent, according to the NRL.
The chief medical officer of the lab Dr. Basel al-Trabulsi said the test can be a “powerful tool” in helping medical workers track and control the spread of the virus.
“When you go back and design a return of work policy one of the first thing you do is risk assessments. If you have serology tests then it will tell you the exposure rates of people. Now you will have an educated guess when people are returning to work by identifying the workforce that could potentially be immune,” al-Trabulsi told local media.
If the serology tests show that most of the employees in an office have not been infected with the virus, then employers must impose strict measures to prevent infection.
The test would also help determine who would need to be vaccinated once a cure is developed.
“Once a vaccine is developed, you can priorities those that don’t have the antibodies because the assumption is that they would fight the virus better than those who don’t have it,” al-Trabulsi added.
Guidelines for who will be tested in the UAE are currently being developed, but so far the new test has not been made available for the general public, according to the NRL.
However, the serology test kits are currently being used to detect whether people working in high-risk jobs have been infected.